One of the noteworthy additions to this production was the wordless prologue, depicting the wedding of Othello and Desdemona as a beautiful tribal ceremony performed by Othello’s people. (Digression: it had never occurred to me to wonder whom the pair were married BY. I’d always assumed vaguely that Othello as a “Moor” was from a Muslim background, but his remarks to Desdemona in the last act, “I would not kill thy unprepared soul” do indicate that he is a Christian by that time.)
The play proper begins with Iago’s “I hate the Moor” speech, in which James Ridge shows us his take on the character. By contrast with James DeVita’s Iago, blunt and resentful, this Iago is edgy, eaten up with his jealousy of Othello. Yes, the play is about jealousy, but it is Iago’s jealousy that is the main driver, not the jealousy Othello is coached into by him. Iago is jealous of Othello’s rank and reputation, believes he may have committed adultery with Emilia, and is jealous of Othello’s preferment of Cassio.
Chike Johnson is a fine Othello, a man of powerful passions. He loves passionately, hates passionately, is passionately possessive and jealous when lead to it. His straightforwardness makes him easy for Iago to baffle, since he suspects no wrong motives on his own.
Laura Rook as Desdemona gives us a young woman who is sprightly and willful. We get the impression that she has heretofore twisted her father (Brabantio, Brian Mani) around her finger, and is puzzled and hurt when he rejects her marriage. That she assumes her charm will win over Othello on the subject of Cassio’s rehabilitation plays directly into Iago’s hands.
Colleen Madden plays a properly feisty and bawdy Emilia, in the last act denouncing Othello’s crime and Iago’s treachery with a fine rage. If the theatre had had rafters, they would have shaken.
The other major roles were well filled with Marcus Truschinski as the foolish Roderigo, and Nate Burger as trusting Cassio, both of whom also fall victim to Iago’s masterly manipulations.
Costumes by Matthew LeFebvre were handsome and evocative, and the minimal set, distinguished by its water feature which was cleverly used, worked well for the staging.
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